How to Know the Backyard Burn Laws in Your Area

A field of dry crops burning.

Whether you own or rent, part of home maintenance involves clean up around the property. While some people haul trash off to the dump, many find it more efficient to burn materials. Ridding your yard of garbage and debris can be an ongoing process and the regulations regarding burning can be confusing and inconsistent. Whether you use a burn barrel for paper debris, want to enjoy a backyard fire in the fire pit, or need to monitor a field burn for your crops, it’s important to know the burn regulations in your area. Here’s how to keep up to date.

Government Sites

Find the government site with information about your area. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is one resource. When we think of fire restrictions, we often think of hazards in the form of fires spreading to neighboring structures or fields. But fires also affect air quality and bans are put in place when the DEQ feels that burning in stagnant air conditions could create breathing hazards. Depending on where you’re located, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forestry Department for your state, or another government agency may provide the most up-to-date information. Search online for "fire restrictions in my area” to get the most relevant information.

Call the Fire Department

A stone firepit in a backyard.

Your local fire department is a great resource for finding out the current regulations for your burn. Remember that not all fires are created equal and while one activity might be allowed, another may be part of a current ban. For example, grilling is typically allowed during a burn ban, but a backyard campfire, even in a pit, may not be.

Get a Permit

One way to ensure that you've satisfied the local regulations is to get a permit for your burn. Again, each situation is different so communicate your needs, make sure your action is approved, and always keep a hose or other water source nearby.

Get on Social Media

If you have a FaceBook page, subscribe to the local news and community pages. During burn season, regulations will be a hot topic. Also look to pages that report local news. When a burn ban is in effect, the headlines will often announce it.

Check Often

A pile of yard trash burning.

Regardless of what the report said yesterday or even this morning, burn classifications can change within hours. Make sure that you have the most recent information to avoid fines or, worse, dangerous situations. The regulatory committees that make these decisions put a lot of thought and research into them, so don’t take chances. You would not want to be responsible for a backyard burn that gets out of control.

Use Caution While Camping

Fire bans not only apply to backyard burns, but also restrict camping activities. You will want to check current regulations before you leave for your camping trip. A ban not only limits your ability to have a campfire, but may also restrict the use of any open-flame device including backpacking stoves and cookstoves. Pay attention to the roadside signs that post notifications of the fire danger level. If the fire danger is high, there is likely a ban in place. Check with the forest service information station in the area you plan to camp. Also check out the welcome board at your campground for posted information regarding campfires.

Other Activities

Remember that fire restrictions include other activities that can create a potentially hazardous spark such as welding or using a chainsaw. You can educate yourself further by understanding the fire restrictions prohibitions. Also, regardless of the time of year, always put cigarettes and cigars in safe disposal areas to avoid igniting a fire.

Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility. Fortunately, we have professionals to guide us in the decisions we make about when to burn, what to burn, and how to go about having any type of fire. The bottom line is that you ever plan to have any sort of fire, it’s best to check with local officials to ensure you’re operating within the legal guidelines.